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Alibaba Said to Weigh Options for Video Platforms Youku, Tudou

Alibaba Said to Weigh Options for Video Platforms Youku, Tudou

(Bloomberg) -- Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is exploring options for its video entertainment assets, according to people familiar with the matter, as the Chinese tech giant wades deeper into its plan to revamp its structure.

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The company is conducting a strategic review of video streaming platforms Youku and Tudou, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private. One of the options under consideration is to inject the assets into Alibaba Pictures Group Ltd. and bolster the business scope of the Hong Kong-listed company, the people said.


The review on video platform assets comes as Alibaba plans a six-way restructuring to try to juice growth and create a family of standalone leaders in businesses from e-commerce and media to cloud and logistics. The company announced a surprising shakeup of its leadership last month, replacing its eight-year veteran chief Daniel Zhang.

In China, Youku competes against Baidu Inc.’s iQiyi Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. The rivalry was once so intense that these main operators spent billions on acquiring content and developing original series, following Netflix Inc.’s well-established playbook to gain market share and fend off other upstarts. But that approach also triggered a price war that proved unsustainable and drove players into the red. iQiyi has shifted focus to boosting subscriptions with more selective, top-notch content as the firm looks to reverse years of losses, Chief Executive Officer Gong Yu said in an interview in May.

Deliberations are at an early stage and Alibaba could also explore other options including separate listing for the video platforms or not to proceed with any deal, the people said. Representatives for Alibaba and Alibaba Pictures didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Alibaba Pictures is involved in content production, promotion and distribution as well as cinema ticketing management and data services for the entertainment industry, according to its website. It’s behind some of China’s highest-grossing movies such as Wolf Warrior 2, The Wandering Earth and Dying to Survive. The company also invested in the movie Green Book, which won best picture, supporting actor and original screenplay in the Oscars in 2019.

Shares of Alibaba Pictures have fallen about 45% in the past year, valuing the company at about $1.5 billion.

Once bitter rivals, Youku merged with Tudou in an all-stock deal that’s worth about $1 billion in 2012. Alibaba bought out the US-listed Chinese video site in 2016 in a $5.1 billion deal. While Youku is the third-largest online long-form video platform in China in terms of monthly active users, it has been facing mounting challenges from short video apps such as Bytedance’s Douyin.

Alibaba’s digital media and entertainment business narrowed its losses in the first quarter, thanks to Youku’s investment in content and production capability. The unit posted a loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of about 1.1 billion yuan ($152 million) in the three months ended March 31, compared with a loss of about 2 billion yuan for the same period in 2022.

--With assistance from Jane Zhang and Dong Cao.

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